With all of the rhetoric flying about which company is better to lease Jefferson Parish’s two public hospitals, I suppose that Sheriff Newell Normand is running out of appropriate adjectives.
In a well-written article on Nola.com, Ben Myers reports that Normand labeled Children’s Hospital debt ratio as in “the sucky arena”.
“They are burdened with that ratio, and they are very, very nervous.”
I guess that means they are more nervous than being only “very nervous”.
Someone please get that man a Thesaurus for Christmas.
Normand, who in addition to being Sheriff of the 2nd most populous parish in the state, owns several corporations, floated his name as a potential Gubernatorial candidate, and championed the rezoning of Fat City (how’s that working out?), is also the Chairman of the East Jefferson General Hospital board.
He is also an advocate of the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) in its quest to take over the hospitals.
Initially, the Parish Council and the hospital boards said they would prefer to lease the hospitals together. Since there has been an impasse, with East Jeff siding with HCA while West Jeff prefers the non-profit Children’s, the East Jeff Board now says that they are willing to go it alone.
Of course, regardless of which company (or companies) is chosen to operate the hospitals, the broader questions have been left unanswered: Why is there a need to lease the hospitals at all and why remove the people of Jefferson Parish, who own the hospitals, from the process?
Normand argues that the hospitals are losing money, draining their cash reserves and, with increased Medicare and Medicaid costs and the looming uncertainty over ObamaCare, the hospital’s financial situations are in such dire straits that a change is required.
But, that’s a false argument.
East Jefferson had cash reserves of $133 Million in 2012,while West Jeff’s reserves stood at $150 Million.
And, while it’s true that the cash reserves for both hospitals were considerably higher pre-Katrina, the hospitals have not cut back on capital expenditures for buildings and equipment. Reducing expenses for capital projects is one of the first steps any business owner would take to stem a decline in revenue.
If the hospitals were estimated to lose a combined $15 Million in 2012 with over $20 Million spent on capital improvements, at the current rate, the hospitals would burn through their cash sometime around 2031. That’s without cutting back on anything.
In addition, both facilities have numerous properties that could be sold or leased to bring in additional revenue. For instance, West Jefferson owns a strip shopping center that could easily be divested.
The hospitals have combined some minor services but still are largely autonomous. Both have separate management, staff and boards. A tiny fraction of service, supply, maintenance and equipment contracts are combined.
Completely combining the operations of the hospitals and significantly reducing costs, could afford the hospitals the opportunity to continue to be publicly owned.
This potential option, and the reason why it is not being considered, has never been articulated by Normand or hospital administrators.
Perhaps it’s not “sucky” enough or Sheriff Normand doesn’t want to let us all in to the party.
While leasing the hospitals would provide a cash infusion for Jefferson Parish (and property taxes from the for-profit HCA, if they were selected over Children’s), the hospitals financial situation is far from the dire portrait that Normand and other are painting.
No, Sheriff Normand, the fact is that you’ve never told the people of Jefferson Parish the whole truth, you haven’t explored every option and you certainly haven’t been open and transparent with the two most valuable assets in Jefferson Parish.
And that really is “sucky”.